Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

US basketball dream team crushes Nigerians

By Ian Parker

Where the 2012 edition of the United States national team will stack up against the rest in history remains to be seen, but they claimed their place in the record books last night with a 156-73 rout of Nigeria.

The United States' final score - shattering the previous Olympic mark of 138 by Brazil against Egypt in 1988 - was only one of several record-breaking statistics in the game.

They had 78 points in the first half alone, beating the 72 of that same Brazil team against China in Seoul.

They made a record 29 three-pointers in the game, a stunning tally considering that Nigeria - scoring what would otherwise be a very respectable total against this American team - made 28 field goals in total.

It was an American record for the margin of victory, beating the 72 by which they beat Thailand in 1956.

The scoring record came when Andre Igoudala drained a three-pointer to make it 139-68 with 4:27 left in the game, prompting celebrations on the United States' bench when the feat was announced to the crowd.

Kobe Bryant was among those leading the high fives as he had been taken out of the game at half-time thanks to the Americans' enormous lead.

"It feels great," Bryant said of breaking the record. "We weren't aware of it until late but it feels great to be a part of something truly special.

"We obviously have to finish the job ahead of us but nevertheless it feels great to be part of history. There have been a lot of great teams who have come to the Olympics and posted some big scores, but everything was pretty much clicking on all cylinders for us."

The individual performance of Carmelo Anthony will also go down in history.

The New York Knicks star set a new high for an American in an Olympic game with 37 points - bettering Stephon Marbury's 31 from 2004 - and he did it despite playing only 14 and a half minutes before being benched with the game getting out of hand.

Anthony attempted 12 three-pointers and made 10 - also both records.

"I've seen Carmelo shoot like that before," said Igoudala. "I've played Carmelo since high school and I've seen him have some really big nights. I played against him in the league where he's had some pretty big nights, so we've all seen it."

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Dream Team, who set basketball's gold standard as they waltzed to victory in Barcelona, dominating like no other team before or since.

Long before these Olympics got started, the current American team were answering plenty of questions - and in Bryant's case helping fuel the debate - about how they compare to the team of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Whatever the answer to those questions might be, this team have focused on creating their own identity, and last night's efforts have certainly helped them do that.

"We play for ourselves," said Anthony. "We're not thinking about what the '92 Dream Team did. We respect those guys, we understand what they did and the standards those guys set.

"But we're playing for ourselves, we're playing for our country, and we're playing for this moment.

"Those guys did what they did in '92. Now we have a chance to do something special too."



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